You may have heard that San Diego State University’s Greek leadership has suspended all frat “socializing” indefinitely and mandated sexual-assault prevention training after a particularly bad week. U-T San Diego reports:
“I’ve been to about three demonstrations before,” said senior Jordan Busse, who helped organize the march. “This is the first time where I’ve actually felt scared.”
Busse claims men at the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity house shouted obscenities at them. Later, a group gathered on the balcony at Delta Sigma Phi on Hardy Avenue and waved dildos at the marchers, she said. Drivers on Montezuma Road threw eggs, Busse said.
Again, no photos or videos in that report.
Huffington Post‘s Tyler Kingkade tweeted a statement from the marchers, known as Concerned Students of San Diego State University, that made several specific allegations, each punctuated with the mantra “This is rape culture.”
The statement makes demands of the school in response to the allegations, including shutting down fraternities “until they can be made safe” and adding “disadvantaged (i.e. women, queer folk, people of color) and activist students” to the Sexual Assault Task Force.
They didn’t bother providing any hard evidence, either.
A host of unanswered, and perhaps unasked, questions
We might be able to infer that frat leaders at some point identified the alleged harassers, because Sigma Phi Epsilon and Delta Sigma Phi leaders initially told KPBS last week they were doubtful their members were involved, and now four Greek groups have agreed to a hiatus.
Or maybe they were responding to the alleged off-campus rape and attempted abduction of the young woman. Perhaps the administration told them to clean house or get shut down permanently.
Consider how little information we have: allegations of “sexist insults” and eggs “possibly thrown from passing cars” by frat houses; “men” at the Sigma Phi Epsilon house yelling “obscenities” at marchers; and “men” at Delta Sigma Phi’s house waving dildos.
Were they actual frat members, or visitors? (Sigma Phi Epsilon’s president said “a large portion” of members were at a dance that night.) Were the cars driven by frat members? What exactly were these “obscenities”? How do you wave a dildo?
Perhaps during the course of investigation some hard evidence will actually emerge – boorish frat behavior isn’t exactly an unfamiliar concept – but what we have so far is a lot of allegations that fit a well-defined narrative by a vocal group of activists who want the university to take specific actions.
Activists with an agenda but no cameras
It’s not just SDSU sexual-assault activists: Consider the hacking hoax recently pulled off by University of Chicago students, whose false allegations of racist threats were made in conjunction with demands to incorporate racial and ethnic studies into the general curriculum and punish “racially insensitive actions.”
Specific details in the horrific rape allegations reported out of the University of Virginia are also coming under scrutiny, as The College Fix‘s Jennifer Kabbany notes: Some of the claims, like the use of marijuana in a gang rape and rolling around in glass for three hours, are just fishy.
Activists surely know that when their claims collapse under sustained scrutiny, it makes it all the harder to convince anyone the next time that they aren’t just crying wolf or exaggerating the truth. It does a disservice to actual victims.
For the sake of their credibility at the very least, activists need to catalog their activities in more objective ways than simply sharing narrative-fitting allegations with credulous reporters who are afraid to “trigger” a “survivor” by doing their jobs.
Someone can be deputized to hold a handheld video camera for the duration of the march (take a page from Ferguson protesters), or just pull out their phones when a group of frat boys waves dildos at them.
It should be the first question from journalists when such damning allegations come out: Do you have any hard evidence? That’s basic journalism. If the activists say no, or give a fudgy answer, keep pressing.
The truth is rarely as cut-and-dried as a “rape culture” manifesto lays out.
Greg Piper is an assistant editor at The College Fix. (@GregPiper)
IMAGE: Gopal Vijayaraghavan/Flickr